Bistro Molines, French Cuisine in the Hunter Valley
Restaurant: Bistro Molines
Chef: Robert Molines
Hats: 1 Hat (2015)
Bistro Molines was a recommendation from one of the local wine makers who urged us to take the time to drive up the hill in Mount View to dine at Chef Moline’s restaurant. Open since 2008, Chef Molines has a reputable past in the Hunter Valley harking back to 1973! Since I am an avid foodie, how could I say no? So I booked for four people so we could sample lots of dishes and enjoy the amazing lookout from the restaurant.
After a winding drive through the Hunter Valley, the car took a turn onto a dirt road, weaving higher and higher as the vineyards fell further and further away until the discreet entrance of the Tallavera Winery and Bistro Molines appeared. The colourful roses lined the drive as we parked and walked into the quaint courtyard of the restaurant run by Robert Molines and his ever-welcoming wife, Sally. In true French provincial style, the outdoor dining is peppered with wrought iron tables and chairs, rustic furniture, blooming flowers, crisp white cloth and of course the obligatory wine glasses begging to be filled.
After ordering a bottle of Petersens Vermentino, I started with Italian rather than French by ordering Buffalo Mozzarella, vine ripened tomatoes and white anchovies for entree. The delectable dish that arrived was also smattered with fresh figs, giant basil leaves, avocado, golden beetroot and rockmelon balls – now that’s an entree! My guests rounded off the start of our meal by ordering 1. Salade of Baby Octopus “Portugese Style”, 2.House Made Linguine and 3. Cassoulette of Veal sweetbreads. The entrees were surprisingly large but perhaps that’s from the perspective of someone who has probably done too many degustations recently! I forgot what an al a carte entree looked like! Everyone nodded in agreement that the entrees were delicious and worth the wait.
Chatting over some wine we started to notice the truly lovely view from a only few feet away. The general atmosphere, ambiance was warm and family-like with the staff very friendly but also proud of the location. The French provincial touches around the restaurant add to the romantic whimsy of the space. It would be stunning for a private function if you were able to use it from lunch through to dinner. I can imagine fairy lights, live music and amazing food … I get lost in thoughts when a room captures me like this one. You can feel the owner’s love of the place.
Snapping back to the food, I continued my Hunter Valley culinary adventure by ordering pork loin stuffed with apricot. It was sweet but savoury , light but with depth and complexity in the drizzle of Muscat Jus. The added roasted carrots were a perfect combination as they matched the colour of the embedded apricot. I normally find pork dishes too heavy on the crackling and fat (yum), but this was a delicious surprise and so well handled that it may be one of my favourites of the weekend – I was so happy that I even willingly shared my puff of pork crackling with my guests! No side dishes were needed at all.
The lunch was rounded off with orders of 1. Pane Lambs Brains (yep .. didn’t attempt that one), 2. Slow braised beef short rib with celeriac puree and steam brocollini and 3. Filet Mignon, caramelised onion, chick pea flan, sauteed chick peas, spinach, red wine jus and bernaise sauce. For a lunch we were heavy handed in our food selections but since were not in a rush, we took our time digesting and enjoying the efforts of the kitchen.
It is obvious that Chef Molines, Sally and their staff enjoy what that do. They are happy to chat, quick to help, handle children adeptly (apparently with many teddy bears becoming casualties when kids have to part with the “communal” toys upon departure) and also allow the diners to simply sit and chat without interruption. This is a pleasant departure from many experiences where your conversation and companions become secondary to the wait staff “showcasing” and presenting the food.
Rubbing our bellies, sighing in satisfaction and slowing waking from our Molines food coma, we headed away from the Hunter Valley calm in the knowledge that we had supped on the dishes of the Godfather of Hunter Valley cuisine and we were not left wanting.